Tempe considers expanding its "Tempe Works" pilot program to combat homelessness

TEMPE, Ariz. (FOX 10) -- In an effort to fix the problem of homelessness in Tempe, the East Valley city is considering an expansion of its "Tempe Works" pilot program.

According to a City Council member, the homeless population in Tempe is a growing problem, especially at local parks, and the program, which began in 2017, has a 100% success rate.

Ron Ackerman remembers the days when he was a homeless person like it was yesterday.

"When you're going through homelessness and addiction, your self-esteem is probably rock bottom," said Ackerman.

After an injury, the Navy Vet says he got addicted to pain medications, and his life spiraled down into a black hole he just couldn't get out of for 15 years.

"As far as going somewhere and getting an interview for a job, what did you do for the past 15 years, it's kind of hard explaining that gap," said Ackerman. "So, as far as the opportunity that City of Tempe gave me, they have overlooked that. It's just based off my performance."

"Have a six-month period where they have a full-time job with the city, they have housing provided by the city, and they have services provided by the city as well," said Tempe City Councilmember Randy Keating. Keating launched the pilot program, partnering with Tempe Community Action Agency to select promising candidates at its shelter.

As for Ackerman, who currently does maintenance at the city parks in Tempe, he says he now tries to encourage others to get help, like he did.

"I still see a lot of people today when I was homeless, and I tell them that you could've been in my shoes if you just would've tried, so I'm constantly planting that seed, helping them out," said Ackerman.

All of the people who are going through the program have jobs and are currently working.

"Federal and state governments have slashed the safety net, really putting the onus on the cities," said Councilmember Keating. "It's a regional issue, not something we can do alone, so I'm happy to work with other cities to come up with the regional solution to this."